University of Louisiana-Monroe lays off 300 employees since 2008
If Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Legislature can cobble together $50 million to save a struggling chicken plant in Farmerville, why haven’t they been able to maintain state funding for the University of Louisiana-Monroe? That’s the question posed by The News Star Editorial Board, which writes: …the university and the community has lost 30 jobs with an average salary of $66,000. If the community had just received a new plant or business that promised to hire 30 people at $66,000 a year, we could be sure to see Gov. Bobby Jindal and his economic development officials heralding the move and the progress that has been made under the administration. … To lose 30 is bad enough, but what has happened at ULM since 2008 is much worse. Since that time some 300 jobs have been lost, allowing ULM to operate on $18 million less than it did in 2008. That averages to 300 jobs paying $60,000 a year. … The loss of $18 million and 300 jobs equates to a lot of groceries not being purchased, numerous mortgages not being paid and a significant loss of some of our best and brightest residents.
A few hundred miles to the south, administrators at LSU’s main campus — also hard-hit by budget cuts in recent years — are haggling with the Legislature for permission to streamline the university’s ability to buy goods and services. As Koran Addo reports in The Advocate, a 2011 state law championed by the governor was supposed to reduce the multiple layers of red tape that colleges have to navigate when buying anything from classroom supplies to furniture. “People with knowledge of LSU’s inner workings estimate the savings from such a move could reach upward of $30 million over five years if the state would allow the university’s way to buy products in large quantities,” Addo reports. But it seems the rulemaking process to implement the law has itself become mired in red tape.
Federal spotlight: Plenty at stake in budget negotiations
Do you think the federal budget deficit is “out of control”? Or that defense programs are being unnecessarily targeted by upcoming budget cuts? Those and other myths are helpfully dispelled in a series of charts and graphs by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that aim to shed light on the looming House-Senate budget negotiations. Taken together, the charts provide information that’s helpful to keep in mind over the coming weeks: That deficits have fallen sharply since the Great Recession and are back to historic norms as a share of GDP; that the vast majority of deficit reduction has happened because of budget cuts; and that non-defense discretionary spending (everything except military and entitlement programs) has fallen to historic lows as a share of the overall economy. Perhaps most importantly, they show that the economy is far from a full recovery, as unemployment remains high and workforce participation low – meaning additional cuts to non-defense programs would make life harder for people who are already struggling.
Health coverage drops occurred long before Affordable Care Act
The Advocate reports that some Louisiana business owners have raised concerns that minimum health care standards established in the Affordable Care Act will make insurance policies unaffordable for their employees. However, the trend of employers dropping their workers from health care rolls predates the Affordable Care Act. As LBP pointed out in “Our Two Cents” Wednesday, approximately 276,000 Louisianans lost employer-sponsored coverage between 2000 and 2012. Fortunately, new data from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds nearly 350,000 Louisianans will be eligible for premium tax credits under the new federal law, increasing the potential market size to 489,000. Moreover, small businesses will now be able to shop for coverage in the new marketplace, where their purchasing power will be pooled to encourage more affordable prices from insurers.
Louisiana agencies spent $11 million on sinkhole larger than the Superdome
State agencies have spent $11 million in response to the massive sinkhole in Assumption Parish, which has expanded to a circumference that is slightly larger than the Superdome. State officials say they are seeking reimbursement from Texas Brine since the sinkhole was caused by a collapsed salt dome operated by the company. Nearly 350 residents have not been able to return to their homes due to the sinkhole.